While I enjoy the sessions, I have attended enough of these meetings to hear the same challenges come up year after year. Government needs to fix the way we pay for healthcare, government needs to do a better job of teaching our kids so that they can actually get jobs, and government needs to do a better job helping startups and small businesses because they are vital to the economy.
That last one is really why I started MOB Advocacy - to help startups and small businesses tell their story to government (whether that is directly in the statehouses, or at meetings like NGA, National Conference of State Legislatures or the Council of State Governments) in venues that are usually dominated by big businesses.
So why was this the best NGA meeting ever? One word TechShop. In one session, TechShop's CEO Mark Hatch showed the power that a startup can have at a meeting like NGA - and helped a nation of potential entrepreneurs and creative startups in the process.
Mark told story after story of the businesses TechShop's advanced manufacturing facilities (which might sound like a huge factory, but is really just a giant membership-based high-tech tool shop) are helping to launch everyday. It was amazing!
And best of all - the governors got it. Governor Doug Ducey, governor of Arizona for all of about thirty days was making a back of the napkin outline for a new job skills program that would partner with the Arizona TechShop. And at least three other governors publicly invited Mark to help them bring TechShop to their state or territory. I'm willing to bet Mark also got a few emails after from other governors asking the same thing.
Why was this so successful? It is pretty easy to dissect. One, Mark had great stories. Two, Mark kept it simple. Three, Mark had one call to action - bring TechShops to your states and let us do the rest. And wha-la - a few more successful public-private partnerships are born.
I'll be the first to admit - NGA meetings aren't for every startup. But if you are a startup that needs states to make policy changes for you to scale, or you are looking for pilot program with a state or states - then an NGA meeting is a great place to meet key staff to start those conversations without having to travel the country to have them.
And when it works -- it is beautiful.
Michael O'Brien is the Founder & Principal of MOB Advocacy, a nationally-scoped state and local government relations firm located in Washington, D.C. Contact Michael O'Brien if you are interested in exploring whether your company is ready for the NGA.